Speaking for FTX, whose ads have featured Tom Brady and Larry David, Whittemore doesn’t see celebrity partnerships as a problem as long as those partners have conviction in crypto.
“The long-term partners that we’ve chosen had an interest in the digital asset space even before we started working with them,” he wrote.
This is evident for Brady, who is a co-founder of NFT platform Autograph and has buddied up with CEO Sam Bankman-Fried on social media. It is less clear if David has any skin in the game, though his appearance in FTX’s Super Bowl ad has so far been the duo’s only tie-up.
Binance’s celebrity strategy has followed a different course. In its first five years, the exchange never struck partnerships with big-time celebrities, said Yi. And while its competitors were teasing ads with marquee names back in February, Binance released a social media campaign warning consumers about celebrity shills (the ads ironically featured NBA player Jimmy Butler to deliver the message).
In June, though, Binance tapped Cristiano Ronaldo as a brand ambassador, then the following week appointed Khaby Lame—the most-followed influencer on TikTok—to a similar role. Yi said that she hopes these partnerships will help reshape celebrity influence in Web3.
“We believe that celebrities bear social responsibilities to a certain extent, and good cooperation is a win-win situation,” she wrote. Both of Binance’s new partnerships will feature NFT drops, and the deal with Lame will leverage his platform to address misconceptions in Web3.
OKX has similarly stayed away from celebrities, although it supports partnerships with anyone who has a genuine interest in the space, said Rafique. In June, OKX became the exclusive sponsor of the Tribeca Festival, striking a three-year partnership. The annual event is a mecca for celebrities and was even co-founded by actor Robert de Niro.
Okcoin, OKX’s sister exchange, launched a cheeky campaign in March that polled users on a host of controversial topics, such as the legitimacy of face tattoos and buying one’s first home in crypto. The effort echoed the brash campaigns of other crypto brands, featuring a celebrity appearance from comedian Ali Kolbert and a bitcoin giveaway.
“I think, and hope, the days of celebrities endorsing tokens or companies without proper due diligence and thoughtful execution are gone,” wrote Rafique. “But on a high-level, I do think the use of celebrity brand ambassadors is here to stay.”